Hip flexors are muscles that are often neglected in the gym. They’re not important in the aesthetic sense, and therefore we tend to focus on the more visible muscles instead.
However, if your hip flexors aren’t flexible and strong enough, you could set yourself up for a world of trouble. Generally speaking, hip flexors are an important functional asset of the leg muscles. They need to be flexible enough in order to perform squats, dead lifts, leg curls, and a host of other exercises.
If you do yoga or pilates, hip flexors are included in almost every movement, due to the stretches involved.
There is also one more issue with hip flexors that is often left unmentioned – back pain. Lack of hip flexibility is a major cause of lower back pain, causing tension in the whole upper leg – lower back area. By releasing these muscles from tension and allowing them to regain their full mobility, lower back pain is often minimized or solved completely.
What Causes Hip Flexors Issues?
The main cause of weak hip flexibility is sitting for a prolonged period of time.
Human physiology has evolved to allow for long periods of movement and short periods of rest. Currently, most people live a sedentary lifestyle, and only the health conscious individuals take time to train for a few hour a week.
These short bursts of activity however, do not negate the long bouts of sitting that are a lifestyle norm. While sitting, hip flexors remain in the same unstretched position for too long, losing their flexibility in the process.
So is there a way to bring hip flexors to their normal function, or go even beyond that?
There definitely is, as can be witnessed by professional athletes, dancers and yoga/pilates enthusiasts.
There are many exercises that can help you achieve exactly that. The 3 exercises below constitute a standard approach that is viable for beginners and can be used throughout your hip flexors training.
1. Self Myofascial Release
This exercise is all about releasing tension in the area by directly moving across it with an object.
The object can be a foam roller, lacrosse ball or a PVC pipe. As long as it can roll, and doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort, it can work.
All you need to do is lie on the floor, and roll the object across the hip flexors area, pushing through the discomfort in order to break away the tension and make the muscle softer.
2. Chair Stretch
The chair stretch is used to open up the area and allow more flexibility once the hip flexors become softer from myofascial release.
You can do both stretches at the end of your exercise session.
Get into a kneeling position, in front of a chair/bench or a couch. Then place the left or the right leg on the chair.
You will feel the need to use your lower back, but don’t. Instead squeeze your glutes and hamstrings. You will feel a stretch going across the whole upper leg/pelvis area.
You’ll feel a sense of relief and improved flexibility after doing the stretch for 30-60 sec.
Below is a third exercise to strength your hips flexors at best, but this one is harder and requires a bit more practice.
Bridges are an excellent way to lengthen your hip flexors. They’re also a great glute exercise. Glutes are often under-developed in people with weak hip flexors.
Strengthening the glutes with variations of squats and dead lifts can also be helpful in adding strength to the hip flexors.
The great thing about hip flexors is that they can lengthened and get much improvement despite years of neglect.
It can take a few weeks to notice a long-lasting difference, but even after the first session of using these 3 exercises you will feel improved flexibility and relaxation in the upper legs, pelvis and the lower back area.